Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Importance of Buying Local

"Thinking Outside the Box: A Report on Independent Merchants and the Local Economy," conducted by Civic Economics and commissioned by The Urban Conservancy, a nonprofit group in New Orleans that looks to inform the public on land-use decisions and promote sustainability, was just recently released. The report found that local retailers generate twice the annual sales, recirculate revenues within the local economy at twice the rate, and on a per-square-foot basis have four times the economic impact. The report also noted that if New Orleans consumers -- including residents, institutions, and visitors -- were to shift just 10 percent of all retail activity from chains to local businesses, the result would be the equivalent of injecting an additional $60 million annually into the local economy in the form of recirculated dollars, which would otherwise have left the area.

Those are some eye-popping numbers! And I'm willing to bet they would be pretty similar in Portland. We greatly appreciate all of the loyal shoppers who have helped us to stay in business these past 17+ years; we wouldn't be here if not for you. And we do our best to do our own shopping at local businesses -- and even staying in the NE Portland neighborhood whenever possible; there are so many great local businesses within walking distance. That came in particularly handy last December when the snow storms kept us all pretty close to home.

There's another organization I've learned of recently: The 3/50 Project, founded by Cinda Baxter. The idea behind the 3/50 Project is to think about what three independent stores you would miss if one day you discovered they were gone. Then, "Stop in. Say hello. Pick up something that brings a smile. Your purchases are what keeps those businesses around."

The idea is to get as many people as possible to commit $50 each month to locally owned businesses, total. "Maybe that means rethinking where you currently invest your money, opting to pick up that birthday card or pair of jeans in a locally owned business instead of the big box you’ve been going to. Or maybe it means eating out once a month because you realize slamming the brakes on all spending stalls economic recovery. It’s just that simple."

"The 3/50 Project isn’t an 'all or nothing' campaign that insists consumers stop shopping in chains or franchises. Instead, our message is about balance—of the money you currently spend each month, we simply ask you to redirect an affordable $50 back to the locally owned independent businesses that may have been forgotten of late."

You'll notice the 3/50 Project badge on the home page of our website, because we think it's a terrific idea. Keeping diverse local independent businesses alive and healthy contributes to a vibrant and healthy community, and gives neighborhoods and cities their own personalities, which we think is important. How do you feel?

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